Dangerous TikTok? Researchers urgently need to investigate

After the Facebook Files, researchers must imperatively address the thorny question of TikTok.

Instagram and Facebook are in turmoil. The two social networks owned by Mark Zuckerberg are facing a wave of criticism after the publication of an investigation by Wall Street Journal. It was the declarations of Frances Haugen, a former employee of the firm, that ignited the powder. Instagram is accused of being particularly dangerous for teenagers and of being fully aware of it.

But as researchers examine the impact the two social networks have on the health of young users, other applications are also in the sights of regulators. This is particularly the case of TikTok, which has already had some trouble with the Italian justice system. After the death of a girl, the personal data protection authority temporarily blocked the application in the country.

These various quarrels with justice and public opinion push researchers to take a close interest in the phenomenon which has grown exponentially in France, especially during the first confinement.

The urgent need to scrutinize TikTok

Asked by The Verge, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine health policy researcher Marco Zenone, says it is becoming urgent to address the issue. “The platform is massive, but there is hardly any in-depth study on the subject”. According to him, it is imperative to launch investigations into the potential damage of the social platform on adolescents. Earlier this month, he published a research agenda that details the topics that should be of particular interest to researchers.

We find essentially the same gray points as in its competitors, namely the impact on the mental health of young girls, the mechanisms of adherence to conspiracy theories, as well as the representation of alcohol and cigarettes in the screen, but also and above all, the moderation of content. It will also be necessary to look at how the algorithm selects which videos are popular.

The favorite social network of young people

TikTok has over a billion users around the world. The application, which used the principle of Musical.ly and Dubsmash, has taken pride of place on teenagers’ smartphones. They indulge in challenges, share their lives and dance to popular music. According to a study by Statista, in France, adolescents (13 to 17 years old) represent 38.9% of social network users. 18-24 year olds represent 36.85% against only 19.99% for 25-35 year olds.

The full interview can be found here.

Leave a Comment